China to limit flights at Beijing airport

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BEIJING (AP) — China’s aviation authority, citing safety concerns, has announced plans to scale back flights at overstretched Beijing airport and ban the creation of new airlines before 2010.

China’s airlines have carried 19.6 percent more passengers so far this year than last year, straining ground support, the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC) said in a statement posted on its Web site.

“Along with the rapid development of the industry have come ever-more urgent problems with the supply of technical personnel, air space resources, and airport safety guarantees,” said the notice, dated Wednesday and posted on the Web site yesterday.

Fight arrivals and departures at Beijing Capital International Airport will be restricted to 1,050 per day, or 58 per hour at peak times, by the end of October, and fall further to 1,000 per day, or a maximum of 55 at peak hours, by the end of March, the notice said.

China’s three biggest carriers — Air China, China Eastern and China Southern, will be required to cut a total of 336 daily flights, the notice said.

Spokesmen for the airlines confirmed plans to cut flights but said they had yet to be given official notice by the CAAC.

China Southern’s Peng Jun said she understood the airline planned to cut 10 flights. Others declined to give details.

Beijing is already the world’s ninth busiest airport by number of passengers handled, and is bracing for a jump in traffic around the time of the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Frequent long delays have already prompted regulators to eliminate some chronically late flights. The airport, currently undergoing a $3.3 billion extension to be finished by year’s end, handled 26 million passengers in the first half of the year, about 53 percent of the 48.7 million handled all of last year.

Other high-traffic airports will be required to take similar measures by March 2008, the CAAC said, without mentioning any specific airports or numbers of flights.

There was no mention of foreign airlines being affected.

The CAAC said new airlines would be permitted from 2010 on, but the threshold for entering the market would be raised significantly, the CAAC said.

The CAAC said it would “support and encourage” cargo carriers based in less densely populated western and northeastern China, those flying during less busy night hours, those using foreign crews and those flying domestically made aircraft.

It said growth in cargo capacity would be encouraged but said flying time, aircraft maintenance and other conditions would be closely regulated.

“In order to ensure safety and bring about the positive, rapid, healthy and orderly development of the industry, the CAAC has decided to carry out an overall adjustment in the number of flights, entry into the aviation industry, and rise in cargo capacity,” the notice said.

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